From the desk of Katie P.:
In most novels, the heroine has some kind of quirk, trait, flaw, or unique quality—physical or otherwise–which the hero (and the reader) falls in love with. She could have a temper (Serena, Bath Tangle) or a limp (Sorrel, Friends and Foes). She might stutter (Horry, The Convenient Marriage) or make judgments too quickly (Elizabeth, Pride and Prejudice). She could love to twirl (Marianne, Edenbrooke) or love to take charge (Sophy, The Grand Sophy). She might be stubborn (Margaret Hale, North and South) or love matchmaking (Emma, Emma). She might love to read novels (Catherine, Northanger Abbey) or collect insects and plants (Alice, The Naturalist). The list could go on and on. But the one characteristic not often seen (or even seen) in a Regency heroine is shortsightedness. In Christina Dudley’s latest continuation of the Hapgoods of Bramleigh series, A Very Plain Young Man, readers meet a rake in need of a bride…and a heroine in need of spectacles.
Frederick Tierney is three things: the heir to two estates, a rake, and an extremely handsome man (which he is very much aware). While in London, he breaks off his relationship with his latest conquest, for the first time getting tired of living the life of a profligate (which disappoints his family), saying false ‘I love you’s’ and being chased after by shallow women. He travels to Somerset for his younger brother’s wedding, and to escape his ex-lover’s clutches, he sends her a letter saying he’s soon to be married.
At the Midsummer Ball, Frederick overhears his sister-in-law’s eldest sister, Miss Elfrida Hapgood, commenting on his looks, but is shocked to hear her analysis that he is a very plain young man. Reluctantly intrigued by her, the only single woman of his acquaintance to have no interest in his opinion or attention, he decides that he has three goals concerning Elfrida: 1. Break her reserve by any means possible 2. Make her find him attractive and 3. Persuade her to become his fiancée.
Elfrida Hapgood is known by her family to be beautiful, calm, stubborn, and near-sighted. Everything farther than a few feet in front of her is blurry, and when she spots the supposedly attractive Frederick Tierney at a distance all she sees is a (very plain) blur. When he volunteers to sit for her sister’s painting and Elfrida gets roped into being another model, she discovers in their close contact that he is the very opposite of a plain young man and not her presupposed the idea of a rake. She is mystified as to why he chooses to ignore all the beautiful women throwing themselves at him, instead choosing to spend his days with the Hapgoods.
Frederick’s bright taste in coats and inability to remain serious for any length of time irritates Elfrida, but when he makes it his mission to ruffle Elfrida’s usually unruffled feathers, she discovers that, for good or bad, her feelings for him are much stronger than she thought. When a woman from Frederick’s not so distant past returns, can he convince Elfrida that his life as a rake is over and that he loves only her? And when Elfrida’s cousin offers for her, will she choose security or will she choose love?
A Very Plain Young Man was such a delightful read. While I enjoyed The Naturalist with Alice and Joseph, the second in the series (and especially Elfrida and Frederick) stole my heart. The story and characters were far from predictable, and by the time I read the last page I had filled my Kindle copy with so much highlighting (223 highlighted sections to be exact) that it’s impossible to pick just one favorite quote or section. While this novel can be read by itself I suggest reading The Naturalist first, not because A Very Plain Young Man is not a strong enough novel to stand on its own, but because The Naturalist provides back story and gives the reader more time with the entertaining Hapgoods and Co.
One of my favorite things about A Very Plain Young Man was Christina Dudley’s take on the reformed rake archetype of Regency hero. While staying true to the historical time period’s view of male indiscretions, she created a hero who doesn’t fit the stereotypical “rake” mold. High society accepted affairs and indiscretions (as long as they were handled fairly discreetly), and while Frederick lived this life initially, he felt guilty not only because of Elfrida, but also (and what stands out to me) because of his family.
The two best words I can use to describe Frederick Tierney, Elfrida Hapgood, and the entire novel are ‘enchanting’ and ‘sparkling’. The characters were unique and had depth, and the novel overall was both a witty comedy of manners and a beautiful love story. While considering the pros and cons of A Very Plain Young Man (“Think, Katie, surely there must be at least one negative!”) I can honestly say that I found nothing I disliked about this novel. I highly recommend both books in The Hapgoods of Bramleigh series and look forward to any future Regency romances by Christina Dudley!
5 out of 5 Regency Stars
A Very Plain Young Man: Book Two of The Hapgoods of Bramleigh, by Christina Dudley
BellaVita Press (2014)
Trade paperback (380) pages
- Read our review of The Naturalist: Book One of The Hapgoods of Bramleigh
Cover image courtesy of BellaVita Press © 2014; text Katie P. © 2014, Austenprose.com
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